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Are there solutions to the serious problem of political polarization in the United States? The two main approaches would be efforts to change attitudes and efforts to change institutions and rules. Both are difficult, especially in the short run, but institutional changes are probably somewhat less daunting. I focus on the latter approach.
My point of departure is the fact that polarization between Democrats and Republicans is almost entirely caused by the increasing extremism of the Republican party and especially its right Tea-Party wing – as extensively documented by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein (2012). Democrats may have moved slightly to the left in recent decades, but Republicans have moved much further to the right. In comparison with progressive parties in other advanced industrial democracies – in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand – the Democratic Party looks like a center or slightly left-of-center party instead of a party of the far left. In a similar comparison with conservative parties elsewhere, however, the Republican Party is not just clearly on the right of the political spectrum, but considerably further to the right. A striking example of this difference is the acceptance of universal health insurance by almost all conservative parties, but not by the Republican Party in the United States, which not only opposes it but rejects it with great passion and vehemence. Paul Krugman (2013) has recently called the Republican Party the “crazy party.” This is a judgment with which European conservatives are likely to agree.
We probably cannot change the minds of Republicans like Ted Cruz and Eric Cantor, but we can try to reduce their extraordinary influence – which cannot be justified in terms of basic democratic principles. The key to my recommendations for institutional reform is to try to limit the power and influence of (1) the Republican Party as a whole, which has drifted far to the extreme right, and (2) in particular the extreme right wing of the party.
The prospects for the spread of democracy around the world in the 21st century appear to be bright, but there are also important reasons for pessimism. One is that politicians and constitution-writers in the democracies are not aware of, or choose to ignore, compelling social science evidence concerning the superiority of parliamentary systems of government and proportional representation (in contrast to presidential government and majoritarian electoral systems). The older democracies are not in danger of failing, but they are losing much of their democratic vitality, as seen in the decline of people's interest in politics, decreasing voter participation, and the serious weakening of political parties. For these problems, too, parliamentarism and proportional representation are at least partial remedies, but stronger measures (such as compulsory voting) also deserve to be considered seriously
Most observers of the United States House of Representatives undoubtedly agree that in many respects, large and small, the House does not perform its representative function very well. Not being an expert on the details and intricacies of House operations, I shall leave the smaller matters—such as incremental steps to reform the financing of election campaigns—to the specialists. Let me focus instead on three major characteristics that makes the House insufficiently representative: (1) its election by plurality, which does not provide adequate representation for minorities and minority views; (2) its election by an unrepresentative electorate, especially in midterm elections when only about one-third of the eligible voters make use of their right to vote; and (3) its comparatively small size of only 435 members.
Democracy's victory in the 1990s, while a major development in world history, is only a partial victory. It represents the defeat of Communism, Fascism, and other ideological anti-democratic forces, but democracy continues to face enemies of a different nature: in particular, the deep ethnic-communal divisions within countries, often aggravated by great socioeconomic inequalities, which pose a grave threat to the viability and consolidation of democracy in the many newly democratic countries.
The leitmotiv of much of my previous work has been that the challenge of deep cleavages does not represent an insuperable problem. Democracy of the “consociational” or “consensus” type – similar concepts, although I have denned them in slightly different terms (Lijphart 1977, 1984) – provides formal and informal constitutional rules that can facilitate interethnic and intercommunal accommodation. The two most important elements are broad participation in decision making by the representatives of the different ethnic-communal groups and cultural autonomy for those groups that wish to have it. The empirical evidence for this proposition is very strong. For instance, Ted Robert Gurr's recent Minorities at Risk (1993: esp. 290–313), a massive study of all of the world's minorities in the post-World War II era, concludes that, first of all, intercommunal conflict is by no means intractable; that, second, partition and secession do not work well, mainly because it is in practice very difficult to draw boundaries in such a clean and neat way that homogeneous countries are created; but that, thirdly, there are methods that do work, namely broad power-sharing and group autonomy.
Low voter turnout is a serious democratic problem for five reasons: (1) It means unequal turnout that is systematically biased against less well-to-do citizens. (2) Unequal turnout spells unequal political influence. (3) U.S. voter turnout is especially low, but, measured as percent of voting-age population, it is also relatively low in most other countries. (4) Turnout in midterm, regional, local, and supranational elections—less salient but by no means unimportant elections—tends to be especially poor. (5) Turnout appears to be declining everywhere. The problem of inequality can be solved by institutional mechanisms that maximize turnout. One option is the combination of voter-friendly registration rules, proportional representation, infrequent elections, weekend voting, and holding less salient elections concurrently with the most important national elections. The other option, which can maximize turnout by itself, is compulsory voting. Its advantages far outweigh the normative and practical objections to it.
The Purpose of This Article is To Analyse The Document ‘A Framework for Accountable Government in Northern Ireland’, published by the British government in early 1995, and to assess its significance in terms of the theory of powersharing (consociational democracy). The Framework Document, as it is usually called, received a hostile reception from many Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland. The ideas that it contains, however, resonate with many previous blueprints for the future of Northern Ireland. In some form they are very likely to re-emerge in the proposed solutions that will follow the ‘all-party’ talks set for June 1996. I shall show that the Framework plan for democratic government in Northern Ireland is completely and thoroughly consociational in its orientation. It confirms the proposition that power-sharing is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for viable democracy in deeply divided societies.
India has been the one major deviant case for consociational (power-sharing) theory, and its sheer size makes the exception especially damaging. A deeply divided society with, supposedly, a mainly majoritarian type of democracy, India nevertheless has been able to maintain its democratic system. Careful examination reveals, however, that Indian democracy has displayed all four crucial elements of power-sharing theory. In fact, it was a perfectly and thoroughly consociational system during its first two decades. From the late 1960s on, although India has remained basically consociational, some of its power-sharing elements have weakened under the pressure of greater mass mobilization. Concomitantly, in accordance with consociational theory, intergroup hostility and violence have increased. Therefore, India is not a deviant case for consociational theory but, instead, an impressive confirming case.
Hans Keman's and Paul Pennings's critique (‘Managing Political and Societal Conflict in Democracies: Do Consensus and Corporatism Matter?’, this Journal, preceding pages) of our attempt to link corporatism and consensus democracy falls essentially into three parts. Their first criticism deals with the way we measured corporatism. They reject our ‘composite’ approach on the basis that different experts have different conceptual understandings of corporatism. Hence, they argue, it is unwarranted to add up these various scores. Secondly, they claim that our central relationship between consensus democracy and corporatism is a function of our particular measure of corporatism and, in addition, driven by two outlying cases: Italy and Austria. Thirdly, they claim that corporatism and consensus democracy are two different phenomena, and that therefore, corporatism should not be integrated into the concept of consensus democracy. We shall address these three main criticisms in the order described.
The Dustjacket of S. E. Finer's Adversary Politics and electoral Reform, published in 1975, reminds us that his older brother Herman Finer was one of the staunchest and best-known opponents of proportional representation (PR), and points out that S. E. Finer long shared his brother's point of view: in fact, ‘until twelve months ago Professor Finer was still adhering to this view. In advocating proportional representation as he does in this book, . . . he has abandoned the intellectual convictions of a lifetime’. In his later essay ‘Adversary Politics and the Eighties,’ published in 1982, he again pinpoints 1974 as the year of his conversion to PR.
This research Note has two complementary theoretical objectives. First, we shall attempt to place the form of interest representation and the involvement of interest groups in policy formation known as corporatism – or as democratic, societal, liberal or neo-corporatism – in a broader political context: is corporatism systematically linked with other democratic institutions and processes? Secondly, we shall try to fill a gap in the theory of consensus democracy. This theory holds that types of party, electoral, executive and legislative systems occur in distinct clusters, but it fails to link interest group systems to these clusters.
A systematic analysis of the relationships between the main electoral system variables (electoral formula, district magnitude, and ballot structure) and electoral outcomes (the degrees of disproportionality and multipartism) in the 20 Western democracies from 1945 to 1985—representing 32 distinct electoral systems (an electoral system being defined as a set of elections held under basically the same rules)—shows that the effects of both formula and magnitude on proportionality are very strong, much stronger than Douglas W. Rae and subsequent researchers have suggested; that on the other hand, their effects on the number of parties participating in elections is surprisingly weak; and that ballot structure affects the degree of multipartism only in single-member district systems. These findings suggest that strategic behavior by politicians and voters plays a less important role in reducing multipartism than is usually assumed.
The Return to Democracy of Spain, Portugal, and Greece in the 1970s is an encouraging and inspiring example to democrats everywhere — but especially to Latin American demccrats because of their region's close historical and cultural ties with two of the Southern European countries. However, apart from the general feeling of optimism that the Southern European experience legitimately engenders, are there any specific lessons and lessons specifically relevant to Latin America that can be learned from it? In this article, I shall suggest six such lessons. Some of these are positive lessons — examples to be followed, such as choosing a form of democracy that is suitable to a country's size and to its political and social divisions; others are negative ' examples to be avoided, such as Portugal's and Greece's experimentation with a presidential form of government. Some lessons are based on common characteristics of the new Southern European democracies; others concern traits on which they differ.
Nel suo noto saggio su Democracy, Presidential or Parliamentary: Does it Make a Difference? — ampiamente diffuso e da considerarsi ormai una sorta di classico non pubblicato — Juan Linz (1987, 2) osserva correttamente che gli scienziati della politica hanno trascurato le importanti differenze istituzionali e comportamentali tra regimi parlamentari, presidenziali e semipresidenziali e che, in particolare, queste differenze «ricevono solo scarsa attenzione nei due più recenti lavori di comparazione delle democrazie contemporanee», cioè Comparative Democracies di G. Bingham Powell (1982) e il mio Democracies (Ljiphart 1984). Una ragione per cui il presidenzialismo risulta relativamente trascurato nel mio libro è che nell'universo di 21 democrazie ivi considerato — definito da quei paesi che hanno avuto una ininterrotta esperienza di governo democratico approssimativamente dalla fine della seconda guerra mondiale — compare un solo chiaro caso di governo presidenziale (gli Stati Uniti) e due casi più ambigui (la V Repubblica francese e la Finlandia). Retrospettivamente ritengo di aver applicato i miei criteri in modo troppo stretto e che avrei dovuto includere anche l'India e il Costa Rica tra le mie democrazie «prolungate». Quest'ultimo avrebbe costituito un quarto caso di presidenzialismo. Powell fa ricorso ad una definizione meno esigente di democrazia (un minimo di 5 anni di democrazia nel periodo dal 1958 al 1976), il che gli mette a disposizione altri 4 casi di presidenzialismo: Venezuela, Cile, Uruguay e Filippine.
Vorrei essere ancor più esplicitamente critico sul mio libro del 1984: la debolezza principale non è tanto lo scarso spazio dedicato al contrasto tra presidenzialismo e parlamentarismo (circa 12 pagine su 222, cioè un po’ più del 5% del libro) ma piuttosto il fatto che la discussione non è sufficientemente integrata con la comparazione della democrazia maggioritaria e consensuale, che costituisce il tema principale del lavoro. In particolare, ho definito presidenzialismo e parlamentarismo in riferimento a due caratteristiche contrastanti, ignorando una terza cruciale distinzione, ed ho poi legato il contrasto presidenziale/parlamentare ad una sola delle differenze tra democrazia consensuale e maggioritaria, ignorando il suo impatto su numerose altre distinzioni. L'obiettivo di questo articolo è correggere queste lacune e stabilire la connessione generale tra il contrasto presidenziale/parlamentare e quello maggioritario/consensuale.
Come Linz, il mio atteggiamento sarà critico verso il presidenzialismo, ma tale critica si baserà su argomenti in parte diversi. L'argomento principale di Linz (1987, 11) riguarda «la rigidità che il presidenzialismo introduce nel processo politico e la flessibilità di gran lunga maggiore di questo processo nei sistemi parlamentari». Concordo pienamente con Linz e, in aggiunta, sono d'accordo che rigidità e immobilismo costituiscono i più seri punti deboli del presidenzialismo. In questo articolo la mia critica si concentrerà su una ulteriore debolezza della forma presidenziale di governo: la sua potente inclinazione verso la democrazia maggioritaria e il fatto che, nel gran numero di paesi in cui un naturale consenso di fondo è assente, appare necessaria una forma di democrazia consensuale invece che maggioritaria. Questi paesi comprendono non solo quelli caratterizzati da profonde fratture etniche, razziali e religiose, ma anche quelli con intense divisioni politiche che originano da una storia recente di guerra civile o dittatura militare, enormi diseguaglianze socio-economiche e così via. Inoltre, nei paesi in via di democratizzazione o di ri-democratizzazione le forze non-democratiche devono essere rassicurate e riconciliate ed è necessario fargli accettare l'idea non solo di abbandonare il potere, ma anche di non insistere nel pretendere il mantenimento di «domini riservati» di potere non-democratico all'interno del nuovo, e per gli altri versi democratico, regime. La democrazia consensuale, che è caratterizzata dalla condivisione, dalla limitazione e dalla dispersione del potere, ha molte più probabilità di raggiungere questo obiettivo che non il diretto dominio maggioritario. Come Philippe C. Schmitter ha suggerito, democrazia consensuale significa democrazia «difensiva», che per le minoranze etno-culturali e politiche risulta meno minacciosa dell' «aggres-sivo» governo maggioritario.
Tratterò questo tema in tre fasi. In primo luogo definirò il presidenzialismo in riferimento a tre essenziali caratteristiche. In secondo luogo mostrerò che, specialmente come risultato della sua terza caratteristica, il presidenzialismo ha una forte tendenza a rendere la democrazia più maggioritaria. Infine, esaminerò le varie caratteristiche non-essenziali del presidenzialismo — caratteristiche che, benché presenti di frequente, non sono elementi distintivi della forma di governo presidenziale — ed il loro impatto sul grado di consensualità o maggioritarietà della democrazia.
THE UNITED STATES IS THE WORLD'S SECOND LARGEST DEMOcracy (after India) and the largest of the older well-established democracies, with a very long and uninterrupted history of free elections. For this reason, it can be argued that the American democratic example has been and, should be an important model for other countries to follow. This article will focus on one important aspect of the American democratic system - the pattern of electoral rules - and it will emphasize the striking differences between the American electoral process and that of most other democracies. This contrast obviously affects the applicability of the American model to other countries that may be in the process of revising their electoral rules: because the United States is a deviant case in almost all respects, it presents clear alternatives to the more common attern but also dternatives that are so radical that they may ge difficult to transplant. The democracies with which the American pattern of electoral systems will be compared and contrasted are the 20 countries which, Me the United States, have been democratic without interruption for a relatively long time, that is, since approximately the end of the Second world War: the four large West European countries (Great Britain, France, West Germany, and Italy), the five Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland), the Benelux countries (the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg), Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, and five countries outside Europe (Canada, Israel, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand).
The twelve books under review, written by scholars representing many different disciplines and nationalities, are proof that the comparative analysis of electoral systems has made significant progress in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is still not a well-developed field, but it has clearly become a less underdeveloped one. Renewed interest in research on electoral systems has been stimulated by major changes in election rules—usually in the direction of proportional representation—that have been adopted in several countries, and by a vigorous debate on electoral reform in countries that now rely mainly on the plurality method. The United States is the principal deviant case. Two election systems frequently serve as models for electoral reform: the Irish single transferrable vote and the West German additional-member system.